Whispers from the Wings

'I wonder what they think we're doing.'

September 25, 2012

Mouse made out of foilOn an odd occasion where the frenetic rehearsals lull, I daze out of the large windows and over at the architect's offices opposite. I consider what we've been doing all day from their point of view. If, from across the street, the shirt and tie version of myself looked up from the pixels on my post-it note covered computer screen and looked in through the windows, to see a seemingly ill-fated fella sliding down a wall using the lyrics of 'My Old Man's a Dustman' as his last words before getting back to his feet and lining up in a ten-a-side game of makeshift volleyball then yeah; my novelty socks from Mum wouldn't seem as fun anymore.

In my pocket I have bits of lolly pop sticks. Rat's teeth - of course - made out of snapped lolly pop sticks, all jagged and uneven. On my hand I have a large patch of the sticky stuff left from masking tape. I can't remember the exact reason why my left hand would've been covered in masking tape but I reckon it was fun. Something I am completely sure of though is the location of my script. Right there. In my bag. On the table. Closed. It's been open but it's not as if the script's been gallivanting around the rehearsal room in my hand, pages flung open and flapping like wind machine hair, green highlighted lines getting more attention than anything else. Nah, this isn't that kind of process.

I'm writing this at the end of the first fortnight of rehearsals for The Mouse and his Child. I've deleted that line twice already and re-typed it- considering if we have actually just finished the first fortnight or if, as it rather feels, we've been working for about double that. We've done a lot with our first fourteen days.

Entering the room, it's perhaps not what those architects across the road would expect to see if they left their penthouse pavement planning projections and spent the afternoon with us, in our ground floor rehearsal room, flanked with tables adorned with tennis rackets, fur coats and everything in between.

Somewhere amongst the emporium of prams, shopping trolleys, suitcases and umbrellas, sits the writer of the stage adaptation of The Mouse and his Child, Tamsin Oglesby. Well, I say sit. She is sitting, yeah, she's sitting right now but it's not always like that. Often she's been up with us, joining in with the frenetic throwing of limbs as we chuck a ball up in to the air, keeping it off the ground. Our success fluctuates between one hit and about 185 hits before it bounces on a wooden floor marked with a rainbow of tape, the skeleton of an exciting and adventurous set.

As I watch Tamsin lean in to director Paul Hunter across a desk of scribbled notes, wind up clockwork toys and Wine Gums, I evaluate the relationship between director, actor and writer in this process so far.

The script given on day one of these rehearsals has rarely been the fixed focus. It's a frame, a fantastic frame, with a fluidity to work in tandem with the discoveries we've cooked up in the space between the tables of creative clutter.

As we're trying different ways to make a swamp out of a potato sack and a bin bag, Tamsin hands over a new draft of a scene inspired by the previous day's adventures involving a fur coat and a piece of four foot rope.

I watch someone leave the offices across the road. He's carrying a briefcase. Just as I have lollypop stick rat's teeth in my pocket, he has drafts for a potential new Sainsbury's in Acton or a block of renovated flats from an old print works in Stockwell, or- something. The early stages. Sketches. Plans. Designs.

As I turn to join the rest of the cast, our five minute break coming to an end, I reckon it's pretty apt that our neighbours are architects. I guess we and them do the same thing; although rather than using a protractor, pencil sharpener, ruler and computer software, we use fur coats, the heads of mannequins, feather dusters and ballerina tutus.

The Mouse and His Child cast in rehearsals

by Thomas Pickles  |  No comments yet


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Teaching Shakespeare